A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
WORKING GROUP ON THE AFRICAN UNION
13 May 2003
These minutes were provided by Parliament staff
Chairperson: Ms F Ginwala (ANC)
Van Wyk, A
Apologies: Geldenhuys, B L; Davies, R H; Jordan, Z P.
Staff in attendance: Jenkins, F (Parliamentary Law Advice Office); Xaso, M (NA Table); Mohlomi, N (NA Table); Lenzie D (Parliamentary Law Advice Office); Gabriel, L (Information Services Unit).
The Speaker suggested that the minutes of the previous meeting be dealt with at the end of the meeting.
2. The production in different languages of brief inserts for radio broadcast
The Speaker explained that as part of popularizing the AU and PAP, the Working Group had agreed at the last meeting that brief inserts for radio broadcast be prepared. Dr Gabriel reported that Parliament had managed to negotiate with the EU PSP to fund the project. The SABC had also agreed to run short inserts of 90 seconds as part of the project. The project which will be conveyed in four languages will cover four themes, namely, (1) why the African Union (difference between the OAU and the AU) and why African Unity? (2) why a Pan African Parliament? (3) mechanisms and opportunities for involvement of civil society in the AU (4) what difference will the AU make?
Dr Gabriel further indicated that the project, planned to run on 12 regional radio stations, would take the form of interviews with various members of Parliament. The estimated production cost amounted to R98 000. The Public Education Department's budget would be used for the flighting of the inserts. He added that it had not been possible to use community radio stations, among other things, because of the cost involved.
The Speaker indicated that members who can speak the different South African languages would be identified for interviews.
Dr Gabriel to prepare a brief report on the project to be given out as a media release.
3. Report from the meeting of the PAP Steering Committee
The Speaker indicated that a detailed report from the meeting of the Steering Committee had been circulated. The official minutes of the Steering Committee were still awaited from the AU. She explained that the establishment of the PAP Steering Committee had been proposed at the meeting of African Parliaments in June 2002. The AU Summit in July 2002 endorsed the declaration from the meeting, which included a recommendation for the establishment of the PAP Steering Committee. The Steering Committee has now been established and all five African regions are represented on it. The Interim Commission has, on the basis of the countries that were first to ratify the Protocol, chosen two representatives from each region. However, in one of the regions no country had as yet ratified the Protocol. In that event, the selection was made on the basis of the countries that were first to sign the Protocol. She said that the Steering Committee was therefore an organ of the African Union and could make recommendations on facilitating ratification. She indicated that she was elected as the Chairperson of the Steering Committee. South Africa did, however, declare a possible conflict of interests given its official position on the hosting of the PAP. Another meeting of the Steering Committee would be convened before the AU Summit in Maputo with a view to submitting a report to the Summit.
In the SADC region, South Africa was second to Botswana in terms of ratification. Only thirteen countries have so far ratified the Protocol. In terms of the Protocol, twenty seven ratifications are required for it to come into force. The Speaker indicated that during the Steering Committee meeting, there was an indication that Ethiopia was in the process of finalising ratification. She raised the concern that some countries did not seem to be aware of what was entailed in the ratification process of international instruments. For instance, during the SADC meeting a number of SADC countries indicated that they thought they had ratified the Protocol or that their Foreign ministers had assured them that ratification had taken place.
3. Explanation of the ratification process
The Speaker clarified that Heads of state sign a Protocol or Treaty. The signature serves as an indication that the particular country supports the instrument. A process of ratification then follows. In some countries, like Botswana, the Head of state can ratify a Treaty or Protocol without referring it to the Parliament. However, South Africa has a constitutional requirement that for a Protocol or Treaty to be ratified, it should be tabled in Parliament with an explanatory memorandum. In terms of the South African process, after Parliament approves ratification, the instrument is sent to the Executive at which point the instrument of ratification with a certificate of deposit is then sent to the depositing agency. In the case of the AU, the depositing agency would be the Interim Commission.
4. Priorities of the AU Commission
The Speaker reported that the AU Commission had identified a number of priority areas in the process of implementing the AU Constitutive Act. These priority areas included the court of justice (developing statutes), the establishment of the Ecossoc and the Peace and Security Council. The issue of human rights was also uppermost in the programme of the Commission. She indicated, however, that the Interim Commission did not seem to have much of a media strategy. At the moment, the Commission relied on conveying information to the AU Ambassadors who in turn were supposed to inform their own governments. She mentioned that, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the Steering Committee, she would also inform the media on the priorities of the AU Commission. The Steering Committee members also agreed to take information out to their regions. Mr Bapela congratulated the Speaker on her appointment as the chairperson of the Steering Committee. He pointed out that, in his view, to have only thirteen ratifications was disappointing. He asked whether a smaller committee to pursue ratification had been established during the Steering Committee meeting. He also sought clarity on the difference between ratification and signing. The Speaker responded that the committee had not been established inter alia because of the costs involved. The regional representatives had undertaken to take the matter of ratification to their regions. The AU itself was also supposed to write to the various countries on the matter. In response to the question about the difference between ratification and signing, the Speaker indicated that there seemed to be a lack of understanding of the process of international engagement. She gave the example of some countries, like Tanzania, that had ratified the Protocol without signing it. She suggested that perhaps the PC on Foreign Affairs should consider the implications of South Africa's current ratification process.
5. Seminar of African Parliaments
The Speaker reported that Amb. Djinett had advised her that the Seminar should be held after the Steering Committee meeting. She explained that the initial view was that only Parliaments that had ratified the Protocol should be invited to the Seminar. However, when the matter was raised at the meeting of the Steering Committee, the overwhelming view was that this approach had the potential of dividing the continent. It was suggested, therefore, that a meeting of all African Parliaments similar to the one held in 2002 be arranged. The Seminar would again remain a South African initiative. The Speaker said that she had asked the Deputy Secretary to ask the EU to set up a fund for the Seminar. The South African Parliament would be responsible only for the cost of the meeting itself. Countries would be advised that if they wished to apply for travel assistance they should do so through the EU fund. Prof Turok proposed an alternative approach to the setting up of the fund, namely, that a fund be set up to which both Africa and the EU would contribute, so that countries did not have to apply to the EU as such. The Speaker agreed that the approach should be considered, adding that South Africa was the only country with which the European Union had a Parliamentary Capacity Building Programme. She mentioned that the EU had also indicated its interest to support the Pan African Parliament.
The Speaker reported that the AU Ambassadors' meeting would be held on 4 and 5 July and the Council of Ministers, 6 to 8 July and the Heads of state, 10 to 12 July. The Seminar for African Parliaments would need to end before 6 July 2003 to allow delegates to travel to the AU Summit.
6. The SADC link with the AU
The Speaker explained that the SADC did not fall within the purview of the AU Working Group but that there was an important link between the AU and the SADC. She pointed out that the SADC Constitution provided that at some future date the SADC PF would become a Parliament. This transition would necessitate an amendment to the SADC constitution. The Heads of state of SADC had welcomed the SADC PF and wanted it to expedite the process of becoming a Parliament. There had, however, always been a view within the Parliamentary Forum that the SADC (Heads of state and Secretariat) was hostile towards it. As regards the transition to a Parliament, a group of Parliamentary Forum Secretaries and the SADC Secretariat were scheduled to have a meeting during May 2002 to consider amendments to the SADC PF constitution. The SADC Heads of state were scheduled to meet in August 2002 to consider the matter. The Speaker mentioned that both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the President had been encouraging the SADC PF to expedite the process of becoming a Parliament. She stated that without a Parliament, the SADC was vulnerable within the AU structure. For instance, the SADC PF was unable to be part of the SADC Treaty until it became a Parliament. She said that at the recent SADC meeting, it had been agreed that a special meeting of the Parliamentary Forum was necessary to discuss the role of the SADC in the Pan African Parliament and South Africa had offered to host the meeting. The Speaker proposed that the special meeting of the SADC PF and the one of African Parliaments should run back to back. Once the dates have been finalized, consideration would be given with regard to which of the two meetings should take precedence. The Speaker indicated that she would compile a detailed report of the SADC meeting for the Joint Subcommittee on International Relations and also circulate the report to the AU Working Group. She expressed concern that Parliament's representatives on the SADC PF had not been adequately reporting to Parliament. Mr Eglin asked whether the planned special meeting was for the SADC or the SADC PF. He also asked whether the hosting of the seminar was being done on behalf of the SADC Executive. He queried the suggestion in the draft programme that the SADC representation would comprise one presiding officer and one parliamentarian. The Speaker explained that the seminar was for the SADC PF and that the draft programme was still a proposal. When South Africa, at the SADC PF meeting offered to host the Executive the issue of representation was raised there. The SADC PF meeting decided that if the Seminar was held with three or four representatives from African Parliaments, the SADC PF members would also be asked to send three or four delegates. The Speaker added that there were two separate streams that were being brought together, namely, the SADC meeting and the Seminar for African Parliaments. She said that the documents (seminar draft agenda) had just been prepared on the morning of the meeting and therefore members were welcome to suggest corrections.
Mr Bapela noted that there were two proposed dates for the seminar, namely, 27 to 28 June and 30 June to 1 July. He indicated his preference of 27 to 28 June. The Speaker explained that initially the dates were chosen to coincide with the adjournment of Parliament. She suggested that the dates be relooked in the light of the AU Ambassadors' meeting on 4 and 5 July. She asked members to consider which should precede the other between the SADC meeting and the Seminar for African Parliaments. On the SADC meeting agenda, she said that there were mainly two items to consider, namely, the legal and the technical matter of becoming a Parliament. She asked members to comment on whether the SADC members should have a caucus before the Seminar for African Parliaments. Ms Motubatse supported the view that the SADC meeting should precede the Seminar for African Parliaments. Ms Hajaig agreed, adding that the SADC meeting would also be able to deal with the issues of ratification of the PAP Protocol as well as the question of the vision of the PAP. Prof Turok endorsed the view adding that since there already existence a West Africa Parliament and an East Africa Parliament which would both be represented in the Seminar, it would be appropriate if the SADC had a strong person to represent the region. Mr Eglin asked whether the SADC Regional Parliament would be an organ of SADC, as opposed to the SADC PF which was an independent body. He also asked whether the SADC was aware that the SADC PF was doing work on its behalf. The Speaker stated that four years ago the SADC Heads of state welcomed the quick transformation of the Parliamentary Forum into a Parliament. The Secretaries of Parliaments as well as the SADC PF Secretariat were doing the technical work on the SADC Treaty (relating to the transformation from a Forum to a Parliament). With reference to the SADC meeting and the Seminar, she suggested that in the meantime the exact dates be left open. Once agree, the dates should be within a day or two of the ones already proposed to allow for the proper flow of discussions and for the delegates who wanted to attend the AU Summit in Maputo, to do so as well as for conveying relevant information to the AU Summit. The Speaker pointed out that, uniquely, the PAP could report directly to the Summit without going through the Council of Ministers.
The SADC meeting to precede the Seminar for African Parliaments
7. Draft Programme for the Seminar
The Speaker pointed out that first there needed to be some understanding of the Protocol itself. At the meeting of the Steering Committee, it became clear that there was not enough knowledge or information on the Protocol. She said that in all the organs of the AU that already had Protocols, there were provisions for accountability to the Pan African Parliament. As other Protocols were being finalized, Parliament needed to consider them even while they were being negotiated to ensure that the actual provisions for accountability to the PAP were contained in the documents. Prof Turok asked that documentation for the Seminar be circulated well in advance. The Speaker suggested that the Working Group should prioritise the seminar for the African Parliaments.
A Task Team of members to be established to consider the programme content in preparation for the Seminar.
Among other things, the Task Team to identify experts and report writers from the continent to participate in the Seminar.
Meetings of the Task Team to be open to other members as well.
The Task Team, among others, to draw from the work of the PAP Task Team.
Staff and members of the Task Team to go through the minutes of 1 April with a view to identifying issues of relevance with regard to the Seminar.
The Task Team to report to the Working Group.
The following members were appointed to serve on the Task Team:
Prof B Turok
Mr C Eglin
Mr J Sithole
Ms F Hajaig
Mrs I Mars
Mr J Seremane
Ms A van Wyk
Ms S Rajbally
Mr Eglin mentioned that the relationship between the organs of the AU was a technical matter. He suggested that it would be useful to have a constitutional law adviser to consider the matter. The Speaker explained that there were no Protocols yet on some of the priority AU organs. She said that Adv A Meyer would be asked to assist on the SADC process. When considering the court of justice, the PC on Justice and Constitutional Development would have to be brought on board. Other legal experts would also be considered. The work of the Task Teams of the Working Group would also be taken into account in the proceedings of the Task Team on the Seminar.
Ms Hajaig noted that some key countries, notably, Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya had not yet ratified the PAP Protocol, adding that if these countries had ratified, it would be easier for the smaller countries to follow suit. The Speaker said that the idea would be for the AU Commission to write to these countries or to ask the PAP Steering Committee to do so, in which case the Speaker would write to the countries. She explained that with regard to Nigeria, there had been a problem as to whether it was the Parliament that had to ratify or the President. It was clear at the Steering Committee meeting that Egypt would need some persuasion for it to ratify the Protocol.
Mr Seremane suggested that the public awareness project on the AU should also include information on the SADC. The Speaker agreed and expressed concern that members did not seem to understand what the SADC was and its function. The Deputy Speaker indicated that there had been a proposal from a meeting she had with women from various provincial legislatures for a Seminar of provincial legislators with a view to sharing information on the African Union.
A document to be produced together with the SADC Secretariat which would contain, among others, the organogram of SADC, its functions and composition.
Ms Rajbally suggested that a one-day workshop be convened to deal with the relationship between the SADC and the AU. The Speaker replied that because of the busy parliamentary programme, it would not be possible to hold a seminar before the Seminar for African Parliaments. She said that there was nothing preventing the Speakers' Forum or any provincial legislature from convening a workshop on the African Union. She expressed concern that there was a general tendency among certain people to want to be given information, rather than seeking it. Mr Seremane suggested that the Deputy Speaker should facilitate interaction between the provinces and the Department of Foreign Affairs on AU matters.
Prof Turok expressed concern that even the media seemed to lack information on the AU and the SADC. He gave an example of an article in the business day concerning trade between the SADC , the United States and Europe which gave a view that having a SADC trading block negotiating with the USA was a disadvantage and a waste of time. He pointed out that that report was a very negative presentation of facts which in fact undermined every effort being made to encourage development on the continent. He suggested that attention should be given to informing the media, adding that even in respect of the planned seminar a media strategy should be considered. The Deputy Speaker mentioned that she was also concerned about the lack of information regarding the AU on the continent. She suggested that community radio stations be considered for popularizing the African Union. The Speaker indicated that part of the problem with the AU was the top-down approach it had adopted in its functioning. She suggested that Parliament should pursue a seminar for the media, adding that the media had indicated that a strategy was being set up to inform its members on issues relating to the AU.
8. Consideration of minutes of 1 April 2003 and matters arising
The following names of members, who had been present in the meeting and whose names were missing in the minutes, were included in the minutes:
Prof B Turok
Mrs A Van Wyk
Mr J Sithole
On the motion of the Speaker, seconded by Mr Sithole, the minutes were adopted.
9. Meeting of Civil Society
The Speaker stated that the tendency had been to call experts even to meetings of civil society. She reported that there had been two seminars which the AU organized for the civil society. However, documentation from the seminar had no clear list of participants except that it was clear that mainly experts had attended the seminar. She also reported that, as a Commissioner on Human Security, she was bringing the African Civil Society together on 26 and 27 May 2003. Parliament would also be represented. Two civil society networks have also been set up, namely, the Nepad network and the Human Security network. She raised the concern that because of capacity problems many African countries had difficulty accessing information through the computer or the Internet.
Mrs Mars mentioned that Idasa had identified that even in South Africa there was a problem of accessing information. In an attempt to address the problem, Idasa would be orgnising a workshop on "practical cooperation between civil society and Parliamentary structures".
The Speaker indicated that the AU had a meeting with Electoral Commissions recently to look at issues of governance. However, the South African Parliament was not invited to the meeting. She attributed this problem to a lack of consciousness and awareness of involving people.
10. IPU Africa Group
The Deputy Speaker reported that the Africa Group had not been able to meet during the IPU conference. She said that because she left Geneva before the end of the conference, she had asked Ms Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde to give information on the AU to the leaders of African delegations at the IPU. The Speaker mentioned that the African Parliamentary Union had also set up a Task Team to promote ratification. She said that the Working Group needed to pay attention to the Ecossoc. She asked the Task Team, chaired by the Deputy Speaker, to deal with the Ecossoc. The Deputy Speaker agreed on condition that the Task Team received adequate staff support.
The Office of the Secretary to look into the matter of staff support for the Task Team on the Implementation of the Constitutive Act.
The Speaker to circulate a schedule of meetings of the Working Group covering the current period till the end of June.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45.
No related documents
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.